How Posey's big first half bolsters his Hall of Fame case


At some point this decade, Bruce Bochy will stand on the stage in Cooperstown, New York and deliver a long-awaited speech as he gets inducted into the Hall of Fame. Given how often he deflected credit in 13 years as manager of the Giants, you can bet Bochy will spend much of his allotted time talking about the players who led the way as he won three titles in five years, cementing his place in MLB history. 

There's an interesting thing about that Giants dynasty, though. Bochy managed plenty of stars, nearly all of whom showed up when he retired after the 2019 season. But at the time, none of the past champions who surrounded Bochy on the field were guaranteed to one day join him in Cooperstown. That might be changing. 

Buster Posey's comeback led to him being selected for the All-Star team for the seventh time and it's a big reason why the Giants are surging toward the playoffs for the first time in five years (he won't play on Tuesday because of a thumb injury). It has been one of the best stories of the 2021 season, and it might have a long-term effect on the way Posey is viewed by Hall of Fame voters. 

This is where you, likely a Giants fan, have already made a puzzled face. Of course Buster Posey is a Hall of Famer. They'll retire his number at Oracle Park one day, likely build him a statue, and he can spend part of his first five years of retirement figuring out what he'll say, who he will thank, and which former teammates he will needle in his own Cooperstown speech. 

It's not that simple, though. It never is with baseball's Hall of Fame. 

Enshrinement has been notoriously tough for catchers, most of whom get beaten down long before they can put up the type of career numbers that jump off a page at voters. There are just 19 catchers in the Hall, and only two -- Mike Piazza and Ivan Rodriguez -- who have played a game in the last 25 seasons. 

Coming into this year, Posey had 1,380 hits, 140 homers and 673 RBI, and while the electorate has gotten a lot savvier over time and focused on more advanced metrics, Posey was still in danger of falling short given how steep his decline had been offensively in recent seasons.

Last April, FanGraphs' Jay Jaffe -- who writes about the Hall of Fame better than anyone -- took a look at players who would be hurt by the missed games in 2020 and included Posey, noting that while he had checked off a lot of boxes, some overall numbers were lagging. "It's already clear that age is catching up to Posey," Jaffe wrote of the catcher, who opted out of the season entirely three months later.  

Years ago, Jaffe created the JAWS system, which computes a player's Hall of Fame resume based on career WAR and seven-year peak WAR. Posey ranks 14th all-time among catchers, about four points below the average for the ones in the Hall of Fame. Bill James' Hall of Fame monitor paints a harsher picture, ranking Posey behind recent catchers like Brian McCann and Jorge Posada. 

Posey, of course, did have a lot going for him even before this season. He caught every pitch in three World Series runs and was the key piece of baseball's most recent dynasty, and his trophy case is overflowing. Posey entered this season with an MVP award, a Rookie of the Year, four Silver Sluggers, a Gold Glove and a Comeback Player of the Year Award. He also carries a virtually unparalleled reputation, with not a hint of controversy over his big league career. That would have helped. 

Numbers help even more, though. Had Posey's decline continued, the Giants might have soon turned the position over to younger catchers. A few years from now, voters might have looked at Posey's name on the ballot and had second thoughts after looking up his overall numbers and the way his career took a turn as he hit 30. Posey has changed much of that with a huge first half. 

He has added 66 hits and 12 homers to his resume already this year, along with 2.3 Wins Above Replacement. He is bolstering his case -- being voted in as the All-Star starter nine years after his first appearance is quite impressive -- and is on track to receive MVP consideration and potentially win another Silver Slugger Award. 

Just as important might be the fact that Posey has shown he's nowhere near done as a star. He has put himself in position to remain the starting catcher in San Francisco beyond this year, which means more compiling -- health permitting -- as he gets into his late thirties. 

Posey passed Posada in career Wins Above Replacement earlier this season and has widened the gap with Yadier Molina, the other top catcher of this generation. With another season and a half like this one, Posey will become the 13th catcher to hit 48 career WAR. Of the current 12, Joe Mauer -- who moved off the position -- is the only one not in the Hall of Fame, and he's not eligible yet.

With an OPS+ this season of 165 -- his highest since his MVP season -- Posey is up to 129 for his career, ranking him fifth all-time among players with more than 1,000 games caught. 

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Posey is not someone who openly talks about legacy, but a few years ago he said the big picture is something he evaluates on a year to year basis. Back then, with the Giants coming off 97 losses, Posey framed the conversation around postseason shots. 

“It’s a little bit of a different feel than when you’re 23 or 24 and you’ve got, you hope, so many more years ahead of you,” he said in 2018. “For me, it’s the same thing. I want to win a championship.”

The Giants, improbably, might give Posey a shot at a fourth one this October. That would be the icing on the cake for his Hall of Fame resume, but given the way Posey has played this year, it likely won't be needed.

He started his career on a Hall of Fame path, and here at the age of 34, he's back on the fast track.

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